What are the best churches in Kerala

Kochi: the best sights and tours

If you are traveling to the Indian state of Kerala, you should definitely plan a few days in Kochi. Whether the old fort or the more modern district of Ernakulam - there is a lot to see. Here you will find all the highlights and sights including addresses and tips for unforgettable tours.

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An Indian city on the Arabian Sea famous for Chinese fishing nets, Jewish synagogues and European architecture? If that doesn't sound culturally promising, we don't know what to do next.

You can find all of these different influences in Kochi (or Cochin) in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The 600,000-inhabitant city, more than 2 million people belong to the metropolitan area, is a real melting pot of cultures and offers not only an eventful history but also a lot of coastal idyll. Here you will find an overview of the most beautiful sights in Kochi and the surrounding area.

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Attractions in Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi does not designate a single sight, but an entire district (see location on Google Maps), which is one of the most important sights in the region.

Since it was built in 1503, the fort has offered protection to the colonial rulers in particular - previously known as Fort Immanuel, which was the first European fort in India and ruins of which can still be seen today. In the varied history, the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the British ruled here one after the other.

Fort Kochi, also known as "Old Kochi", is located on the coast in the north of the city on a peninsula. You will find many sights on the site. It is quite popular to see the sights by tuk-tuk. You can simply speak to a driver or book the tour online (including pick-up at the hotel).

Are you still looking for a great hotel for your stay in Fort Kochi? Then be sure to read my experience report on Fragrant Nature.

Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

The pretty Catholic Cathedral of Santa Cruz was built around 1500 and consecrated as a minor basilica in 1984. Both the name and its history bear witness to the Portuguese colonial heritage. The best time to visit is early in the morning or in the late afternoon, as if you are lucky you will have the cathedral almost to yourself at these times.

Address: Bastian St, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001

Indo-Portuguese Museum

The Indo-Portuguese Museum may not be the largest or most important, but it is one of the prettiest museums in the region. It is dedicated to the Portuguese influence in the region and exhibits all kinds of objects and art. It is also located in a picturesque colonial building that is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission is only 10 rupees.

Address: Bishop Kureethara Rd, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001

St Francis Church / Franciscan Church

The St. Francis Church is something very special because it was the first European church in all of India and the first resting place of the great explorer Vasco da Gama.

Architecturally, it may not be anything special, but you can definitely feel the great history of the world here. Today the building is listed and open to visitors.

Address: Saint Francis Church Road Opp, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001

Waterfront promenade and Chinese fishing nets

North of Fort Kochi is one of Kochi's most famous sights: the stretch of coast where the famous Chinese fishing nets are used. It is particularly worthwhile to stop by here in the mornings and evenings.

Not only can you watch the fishermen doing their unique work and get great photo opportunities, there are food stalls and market stalls next door. Locals also like to come here, so it can get a bit crowded, especially on weekends.

Address: look at the map

Tip: Right next door is the Nehru Park for Children, a beautiful children's playground.

Kathakali dance theater

If you are in the mood for culture, you should see a performance by the Kathkali dance theater. Kathkali is a traditional Indian dance that is still mainly practiced in the state of Kerala. In Fort Kochi you will find the Kerala Kathkali Center, which gives three performances a day.

You can find the program here.

You can reserve tickets on the website. Alternatively, you can book the ticket with transfer and dinner.

Address: KB Jacob Rd, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001

More sights in Fort Kochi

In addition to the sights already mentioned, Fort Kochi also has the ruins of Fort Immanuel, the Dutch cemetery, Fort Kochi beach, some Hindu temples and much more to discover.

In between you can relax in one of the small parks and let the impressions sink in.

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Highlights in Mattancherry

The Mattancherry district (see location on Google Maps) is located directly to the west of Fort Kochi, which is why it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as part of Fort Kochi. Mattancherry is like a melting pot within a melting pot, because here over a dozen different religious and cultural communities live peacefully in a very small space - this can be clearly seen in the really enormous number of places of worship. Churches, temples, synagogues and mosques - all close together.

Mattancherry Palace

A special highlight is the Dutch Palace, which is also called Mattancherry Palace and was originally built by the Portuguese (16th century). Sights include the well-preserved murals as well as sedan chairs, jewelry and clothing.
Attention: closed on Fridays.

Address: Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002

Pardesi Synagogue

The synagogue, built in 1568 and located at the end of a small alley, is also worth a visit. Inside it is sumptuously decorated.

Around it there are cozy cafes and lots of souvenir shops

Address: Synagogue Ln, Jew Town, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002


Separated by water, east of Fort Kochi is the Ernakulam district (see location on Google Maps), which is somehow its own city, but somehow also part of Kochi as an administrative unit. Either way, a trip to Ernakulam is worthwhile, because here Kerala presents itself from its modern side with banks, shopping malls and an elevated railway. The big hotel chains also have their houses here. There is a lot more going on than in the contemplative fort. However, there is also more noise and traffic.

Two bridges lead from Kochi to Ernakalum. Because of the traffic, you are often faster with the inexpensive ferry.

St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica

The cathedral basilica of St. Mary is particularly worth seeing inside. Large paintings depict the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Address: Church Street High Court Junction, Broadway, Marine Drive, Ernakulam, Kerala 682031

St. George's Forane Church

The first Catholic church is said to have been built on this property as early as the 6th century. It is considered one of the oldest in Kerala and contains Asia's largest shrine to Saint George. The church is visited by around 5 million pilgrims per year.

Address: Palarivattom - Edappally Rd, Ponekkara, Edappally, Kochi, Kerala 682024

Kerala Folklore Museum

Even if "folklore" is almost a dirty word for us, please don't let that deter you from visiting this type of folklore: In the Kerala Folklore Museum you can learn a lot about the local culture, architecture and history, the exhibits tell about the cultural heritage of Kerala .

Even if you are not a museum type, you should perhaps give this one a chance, because it is not only located in a really beautiful old wooden building that over 60 craftsmen worked on for seven years. It's also really atmospheric inside, because the exhibits, the lighting and the smell of wood create a unique flair.

The museum also sometimes has performances of traditional art forms. The Kerala Folklore Museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., admission is 200 rupees plus 100 rupees extra if you want to take photos.

Kerala Folklore Museum

Address: Near, 2059C No 26 Pandit Karuppan Road, Thevara Ferry Road, Junction, Kochi, Kerala 682013


In Ernakalum you have good shopping opportunities. The market around Market Road and Basin Road are also recommended as a photo motif. The colorful fruit and vegetable stalls make your mouth water. There are also some spice shops in the area.

Address: 1, Market Rd, Marine Drive, Ernakulam, Kerala 682031, India

Lulu Mall

If you need modern clothing stores, an electronics store, a supermarket or an Apple Store, the Lulu Mall is the right place for you. It is the largest shopping mall in India. On the upper floor there is a huge food court and a small fair with carousels and a children's program.

Lu Lu Mall

Address: Church, 34/1000 NH 47 Edappally Near to Edapally, Edappally Junction, Nethaji Nagar, Edappally, Kochi, Kerala 682024

Neighboring islands

Vypin Island

North of Fort Kochi is Vypin Island (see location on Google Maps), an elongated island off the coast of Kochi, which can be easily reached by ferry. Nevertheless, it is rather leisurely here. Vypin Island is where you can relax and go for a walk, this applies to locals and tourists alike.

On the west coast there are several sandy beaches such as Kuzhupilly Beach, Puthuvype Beach and Cherai Beach. The further north you go, the quieter it gets. Some hotels and small inns have also settled here and offer overnight stays at moderate prices.

In the north there is the Basilica Maria Schnee ("Manjumatha Our Lady of Snows Basilica"), a church from the 16th century.

Address: Church Rd, Pallippuram, Kerala 683515

Bolgatty Island / Mulavukad

Mulavukad is one of four islands that belong to Kochi, the southern part is called Bolgatty Island (see location on Google Maps). There is not an incredible amount of sightseeing to experience here, but you are in the right place for a few quiet hours on the coast in an idyllic atmosphere or maybe even a game of golf.

Bolgatty Island is a rather upscale area, there are only a few upper-priced hotels here in addition to a few restaurants. You can get there quickly via the Vallapardam Bridge or by ferry. In the northern part of the island of Mulavukad you will find a few religious buildings such as St. Joseph’s Church and some small temples.


Vallapardam is one of the smaller islands of Kochi. There is with the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransomware one of the pilgrimage centers in India. It is the most important Marian shrine in the country. Every year around September 24th a big festival is celebrated.

Address: Vallarpadam Church Rd, Vallarpadam, Ernakulam, Kerala 682504

Tours and excursions

Boat trip through Kochi

You can also see the port city of Kochi on a boat tour - the many waterways make it possible. The so-called Cochin Boat Cruise (sometimes also Cochin Backwaters Tour) starts at the port of Kochi and takes you through canals through the city. This guided tour is not cheap, but all the important sights are visited and you can learn a lot about it from your guide.

Alternatively, a trip by ferry is also worthwhile, because there is a lot to see on the water, because large cruise and container ships also dock here.

Kerala backwaters

The Kerala Backwaters are probably the most famous excursion destination in the southern Indian state. This landscape describes the really breathtakingly beautiful hinterland of the Malabar Coast, which consists of countless lakes, rivers and waterways, lined with the dense green of the tropical vegetation.

The Kerala Backwaters are usually traveled by houseboat, but there are also many simple ferries that are of course much cheaper. The starting point is usually the cities of Alappuzha or Kottayam - but you can also book the tours from Kochi and the transfer is included.

The offer ranges from day trips to multi-day tours with all types of accommodation. There is a huge selection at GetYourGuide and Viator.

Spice gardens and tea plantations

In the fertile state of Kerala there are some spice gardens that are definitely worth visiting (here is an overview). When do we Europeans have the opportunity to see spices outside of their cans in the supermarket? The operators of the spice gardens will be happy to give you a guided tour and explain everything you need to know about the individual herbs such as pepper, cinnamon, ginger or cardamom.

The spices from Munnar have a good reputation. There are also a lot of impressive tea plantations there. Both day tours and multi-day excursions are offered from Kochi.

Are you still looking for a great hotel for your stay in Fort Kochi? Then be sure to read my experience report on Fragrant Nature.

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Munnar Tea Plantations, Cherai Beach, Kochi Dutch Cemetery, Kathakali dance and Indo-Portuguese Museum from Shutterstock.com

Basilica of Our Lady of Ransomed by Santhosh Varghese / Shutterstock.com

Basilica Maria Schnee by sixpixx / Shutterstock.com

St. Georges Forane Church by AjayTvm / Shutterstock.com

Entrance Dutch Palace by Elena Odareeva / Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Stefan has been traveling to the countries of Southeast Asia since 2006 and often spends several months there. In 2013 he founded Fascination Southeast Asia and since then has also written several eBooks and books on the subject (including the insider travel guide “555 Tips for Bangkok”). Between his travels he lives and works in Düsseldorf.

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